Poverty in Canada is declining, according to latest statistics. Register file photo

Statistics don’t tell whole poverty story

By 
  • March 7, 2020

OTTAWA -- The federal government is touting recent statistics that indicate that the poverty rate in Canada is on a downward spiral, but social justice and anti-poverty groups say the statistics don’t tell the whole story and there is still a lot of work to be done if Canada is going to reduce poverty levels for Indigenous Canadians and those who live in remote areas of the country.

According to Statistics Canada, Canada’s poverty rate has dropped dramatically in recent years, but there are still more than 566,000 children who live below the poverty line in Canada, although that is down from about one million children from five years ago.

According to statistics released on Feb. 24, the overall national poverty rate dropped to 8.7 per cent in 2018 compared to 9.5 per cent in 2017. The number of those living below the poverty line is about 3.2 million.

One of the reasons cited for the drop in the number of children living below the poverty line is the federal Liberal government’s child benefits programs.

But while the federal government says the statistics show its poverty-reduction strategy is working, Citizens for Public Justice, a faith-based social justice group, said more changes are needed in the way poverty is measured in Canada for a better snapshot of what is actually happening.

“Statistics Canada is to be commended on the process and results of their most recent review of the Market Basket Measure (MBM), Canada’s Official Poverty Line,” a statement from CPJ said.

“Unfortunately, through no fault of Statistics Canada, the MBM still falls short of being an adequate or appropriate official measure of poverty for Canada. The most glaring shortcoming of the MBM is that these measures are unavailable for people living on reserves, in the territories or in remote communities where people experience disproportionately high rates of low income, food insecurity and core housing need,” the CPJ said.

Statistics Canada is in the process of reviewing changes to the way it calculates the MBM, and concedes that the number of those living in poverty would be higher under one MBM change scenario it has reviewed.

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